2019 Better Buildings Progress Report

The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Better Buildings Initiative released its 2019 Annual Progress Report. Through the Better Buildings Initiative, leading organizations in both the private and public sectors find new ways to cut costs and propel innovation, driving technological development that contributes to a cleaner, more affordable, and more resilient energy system. More than 900 organizations make up the Better Buildings Initiative, including 28 states, 90 local governments, and 37 K-12 school districts. Some highlights from this year’s report are:

  • Better Buildings partners in the state, local government, and K-12 school sectors have now saved a combined $686 million in avoided energy costs across roughly 1.1 billion square feet since 2011.
  • State, regional, and local organizations involved in the Sustainable Wastewater Infrastructure of the Future (SWIFt) Accelerator have saved 12.3 million kWh to date and reduced the amount of energy needed to treat one million gallons of water by 5.4%.
  • To expand access to energy efficiency financing, 14 local governments joined with DOE in 2018 to launch a Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy (C-PACE) Working Group that will stimulate an estimated $60 million in C-PACE investments by 2022.

The report also features partners that have achieved their Better Buildings Challenge goals. Partners of the Better Buildings Challenge commit to reducing the energy intensity of their building portfolio by 20% over 10 years. The following public-sector Better Buildings Challenge Partners achieved their energy savings goals this year:

  • Atlanta, Georgia, achieved 20% energy savings across 100 million square feet of building space over a 2008 energy use baseline.
  • Bullitt County Public Schools, Kentucky, achieved 21% energy savings portfolio-wide across 2 million square feet of building space over a 2013 energy use baseline.
  • Chattanooga, Tennessee, achieved 30% energy savings across 2 million square feet of building space over a 2013 energy use baseline.
  • Roanoke, Virginia, achieved 23% energy savings across their public building portfolio of 1.16 million square feet over a 2009 energy use baseline.

New Resource Helps WAP Grantees with Integrating Renewable Energy into Weatherization

DOE released a new guide, Preliminary Assessment Guide for Integrating Renewable Energy into Weatherization, which helps Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) Grantees assess whether renewable energy is a fit for their WAP program before embarking on the process outlined in WAP Memorandum 24 and prior to the use of the Weatherization Grantee Renewable Energy Technology Application Template. The guide can help Grantees understand and prepare the organizational, financial, and technical assessments needed to integrate renewable energy technologies into their program. It can also help determine Grantee compatibility prior to submitting an application to DOE and reduce unnecessary delays. Download the guide.

Keeping Up with DOE Funding Announcements

Interested in staying in the loop with new Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) funding announcements? Funding announcements are most often released via progress alert or press release. In order to stay up to date, use the following methods:

Print Copies Available: Resource Guide for State and Local Leaders

DOE’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Resources for State and Local Leaders compiles the most current and popular technical assistance resources to support the energy priorities of state and local governments. WIP helps state and local governments meet their energy goals by developing tools and solutions to address barriers; convening and creating peer exchanges to showcase public sector leadership and effective private-public partnerships; and providing information from leading technical experts. Featured topics include wastewater infrastructure, benchmarking, and low-income households. For additional information or access to paper copies, please contact

Heat Map Tool Identifies and Provides Energy and Electricity Usage

The City of Fort Lauderdale developed a no-cost, replicable heat map tool to visualize hourly energy usage data for city facilities. The heat maps provide greater visibility into electricity usage within city-owned buildings. Consider using this tool to identify energy and operational efficiency opportunities and evaluate the impacts of efficiency measures for your organization. Check out the Better Buildings Solution, How to Create a Heat Map for Energy Usage for step-by-step instructions.

Reducing Energy Costs in Kansas Food Markets and Grocery Stores

With an investment from DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy's State Energy Program, the Kansas State Energy Office is helping to mitigate operating cost burdens for rural food markets and grocery stores by providing energy audits to help store owners better understand how they can reduce energy costs. One grocery store owner in Troy, Kansas, benefited from energy audits which identified measures, such as replacing open-faced coolers with closed-door coolers and installing efficient lighting. The energy efficiency measures were installed and improvements are expected to save the store owner about 86,000 kWh of energy and more than $10,000 in energy costs per year. Read more.

New Energy Information Administration State Energy Portal

Chart of EIA state portal.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) has launched its new State Energy Portal, an interactive way to access energy data and analyses for U.S. states, territories, and regions. With this tool, you can:

  • Access more than 1,700 state- and regional-level data series from more than 50 data sources, including sources outside of the U.S. EIA.
  • Discover your state’s energy history with data going back to the 1960s.
  • Embed charts, graphs, and infographics onto your website.
  • Filter much of the data by frequency, time period, geographic location, type of unit, energy source, or sector.
  • Download and export data, charts, and maps for use in your own presentations and analysis.
  • Compare your state’s energy data with other states, regions, and the United States as a whole.
  • Access Today in Energy articles and other resources applicable to your state.

Montana Helps Increase Energy Efficiency in K-12 Schools

In 2013, the Montana State Energy Program launched the Saving Money and Resources Today (SMART) Schools Challenge, a friendly competition to help school districts reduce energy and save money.

The SMART Schools Challenge is divided into three sub-challenges:

  1. Energy Efficiency Challenge
  2. Recycling Challenge
  3. Green Schools Challenge.

Since the launch of SMART Schools, 113 participating school districts have saved more than $350,000 in energy costs cumulatively. The Montana State Energy Program was selected for a 2016 competitive award from DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy's State Energy Program to design and add a leadership tier to the Energy Efficiency Challenge to increase participation. Since energy efficiency investments require additional leadership buy-in that other types of challenges do not, the leadership tier for the Energy Efficiency Challenge was designed as a cohort of competitively selected school districts that could demonstrate support from administrators at the district level for energy efficiency. Read more.

2019 U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools Awardees Announced

On May 22, the U.S. Department of Education announced its 2019 Green Ribbon Schools, District Sustainability Awardees, and Postsecondary Sustainability Awardees. The award recipients demonstrate leadership in the following areas: reduced environmental impact and costs, improved health and wellness, and effective environmental and sustainability education. For example:

  • The Nature Preschool at Schlitz Audubon Nature Center in Milwaukee, Wisconsin generates 50% of its total energy use from geothermal, solar electric, and solar thermal energy sources.
  • The Boston Green Academy in Brighton, Massachusetts motivates its students to perform cost-benefit analyses of retrofitting current lighting with light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs and to use thermal imaging cameras to assess window and building envelope efficiency.

For more highlights, visit the U.S. Department of Education website. If you want to celebrate the honorees’ accomplishments further, registration is now open to attend a national recognition event on Sept. 25, 2019.

Infrastructure Investments in the News

Madison, Wisconsin program seeks to bring solar energy to under-served communities: The City of Madison, Wisconsin, has launched a new program designed to help low-income residents share in the benefits of solar energy. The Backyard Solar grants are intended to bring solar to neighborhoods that may not yet have benefited from solar. 

New York State’s electric grid gets $5 million modernization boost: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo made $5 million available for electric grid modernization projects that help the state integrate renewable energy resources and improve resiliency.